While researching for the podcast, we found out that Chelsey is a visiting faculty at Arizona University, she teaches Search Engine Optimization there. Here's a great fact, Robert Cialdini who is the author of the book - the Influence, an amazing book on how to market, is a faculty in the same university.
The next question that automatically came up was - if Chelsey teaches a subject as dynamic as Search Engine Optimisation how does she prepare her course material for each year? She agreed that it takes quite a few updates - and there have been times when even during a class, Google would make changes to the algorithm. But all this is a great learning opportunity for the class, given it is such a dynamic field and these are the kind of changes that you can expect.
For example, if there is an assignment that requires the class to do a certain thing and then Google redesigns its search certificates, it can get a bit tricky. But it reflects how fast and dynamically things change in the search optimisation side, whether it’s for content or for Google ads and similar things.
When asked if she had fun being an instructor who’s syllabus is not in their own hands, she said, it’s kind of interesting that some people might think that this subject makes more sense in a business school because of its marketing aspect but then its actually taught in the journalism school.
It is a part of the digital audience program and it kind of encompasses social media, search engine optimisation, audience development, analytics, and Chelsey wished that that program existed when she was in college.
Chelsey not only gets to work with journalists, variety of news rooms on daily basis but she also gets to teach the exact same thing to her class. Imagine learning a new concept and then what better way to master it other than teaching it to others.
She started out as a copy editor and then moved into the digital side of editing, namely a content editor. And she is now completely a news SEO strategist where she gets to build and work on software to make editors more smart in terms of the impact that they are trying to make.
When you are working with award-winning editors, who are critically accalimed and basically a brand in themselves, convincing them to do things from the point of view of an SEO can be a tough task.
Chelsey agreed to this and added that it becomes even more difficult when the other person is from a marketing or PR background. Therefore in her position it is very important to maintain a balance between news rooms and SEOs. Given that Chelsey has worked in news rooms, she works her way around by showing editors how making those changes would add value to the piece, and then transform into possible subscriptions.
What does Chelsey do to build her rapport inside the newsroom, how do you convince critcally acclaimed journalists to change something that they wrote into something that an SEO thinks would have a better impact on the audience?
She said her team does not tell them when something is wrong, they educate them so that they can use that data to write and find on their own if something is successful or not. That's a new way of measuring success, so you show them the results of their pieces as well as educate them about new means of measuring success. Having them do experimentation and then asking them to go the news dashboard and if that piece of article is successful how can we apply that trend or strategy to other piece of articles.
Here's the thing according to Chelsey - it is very important to have a newsroom champion who can back up to the claims that you make while trying to convince people to listen. Mostly she finds these people in the audience team or the analytics team. A lot of them may not necessarily be very heavy on data but if they understand the tool then it is easy for them to work it out.
Mainly there are two types of SEO Approaches -
1. Paid content ads
2. News content
2020 might not be a great year for other but it certainly turned out to be a great year with SEO, given the increase in search volumes, trends and constant Google updates.
News today is so much more, there is Google News, search, search snippets, search newsbox, search tab, Google discover, and given that so much is happening out there, how would Chelsey advise these local publishers to start thinking about their SEO strategy?
Chesley says its important to focus on the technical side of SEO here. A lot of newsrooms struggle here, because they may not have a developer who can understand all the technical requirements and then implement them. A very good technical support is important, for e.g., having a really good site map that Google can read. Its important that your website has a good user experience and now that core web vitals is going to be out things are going to change all over.
If you are only busy optimising the content and don’t have the technical foundation then its useless because if Google can’t find your article then no matter how good the SEO it would be a waste.
Chelsey works with editors who sit on the top of trends, the ones who essentially identify what will be on the news. So what does their workflow of naming these trends look like?
The Trisolute News Dashboard essentially has a feature called automated keywords where keywords are pulled in through Google News, Google trends and that is where news rooms might first see topics that have a better opportunity.
Another feature of the tool is where editors can enter their own keyword, for eg, when a newsroom is going to break news then having a keyword that is exclusive to them helps and then they can put it out there and it can become a topic that other news rooms can cover.
They are made familiar with the process of using the tool, and then educated about leveraging the most out of the trending topics. There is another feature of “missing keywords” that looks at all the pieces of content that a publisher has published or republished in the last 24 hours and if any of those content pieces have any trending tendencies. This usally happens when its a breaking news or the data in the piece has been updated but the piece has not been updated. This is one of the most sought after features of the tool. Newsrooms have a lot of FOMO, they need to be the first and be updated on all pieces of information. So the quest is to form trends and then remain as the original publisher there.
Videos have become a very imp medium of consuming content/ news, and for small publishers or publishers wanting to establish it as a source of provinding information must have a few things in mind. The most important of them being establishing a YouTube presence. In video carousels for news items - most positions belong to YouTube videos.
What lies ahead for audio content like Podcasts?
A lot of companies are focusing on creating audio only. What is Chelsey's take on audio in the newsroom? She strongly feels the potential of the medium and is sure that audio would soon be as in vogue as videos today. Probably a podcast carousel someday, but indian people are not accustomed to these. Is Schema available for audio content?
Who knows we might one day have video SEO?
Chelsey Heath is the news SEO strategist for the Trisolute News Dashboard. She has a background in SEO, digital news production, news analytics, copy editing and content editing.
She teaches Search Engine Strategy in the Digital Audiences program at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University, where she’s also an alum.
Outside of work, she helps at Justice Brothers U-Pick during the citrus season, and enjoys spending her time in the Arizona sun.